Legal 500 UK Bar 2022: How do you choose your five best cases?

When your marketing team reminds you that you have two days to get your five best cases to them for the past 18 months (we’ve all been given a bit of wiggle room due to Covid-19’s effects on the Courts) how on earth do you choose?

Remember that the researchers at The Legal 500 are journalists, not judges.  They are highly intelligent but are likely to be in their twenties, not their seventh decade.  Having filed submissions for both magic circle law firms and top barristers’ chambers for years here is my advice:

They can count to five: As the researchers ask for five cases give them five. Not one or twenty, just five.  They actually say three to five but five is best, it’s the perfect number.  Just think Chanel.

Think of your audience: Who are you writing your cases for?  Make them interesting. Yes, the researchers are paid to read them, but do you have to make them suffer for their art? Just make it obvious, tell the story.  Litigation is usually about people falling out in some way. Money is just something to argue about, a way to wreak revenge.

Use plain English: A lay person needs to be able to understand your cases so if you use technical legal terms explain them, or better still, leave them out.  Aim for a Plain English award, not a Golden Bull citation.

What elements does the best case contain? It does depend on your practice, but the following are universal:

  • Big numbers. It sounds obvious but it is helpful if you are involved in big money cases. Everyone can relate to £millions particularly if you are eking out a living on tuppence a year as a junior researcher.  And money is a big driver (along with sex and fear but more on those later).
  • A juicy storyline.  Murder? Cripes. Knives? Ouch. People falling out over a multi-million-pound business. Surely not? Do tell us why, businesses are founded on personalities and those can be big: the ramifications of a fall-out can be huge.  Whatever the story, tell it.  The researchers have thousands of cases to read, make yours interesting.
  • Twists and turns. Cases have twists and turns, take us through them, it takes the reader on a journey and we like those.  Elements of cases can stem from human frailties such as a thirst for power, a need for validation or a desire to punish.  All make for a fascinating story.  As a BFF (litigation partner at a top 20 law firm) says, “get a therapist, don’t litigate”.
  • A great punchline: What was the case about? Why is it one of your top five? If you can’t answer this bin the case, it’s obviously not worth it.
  • Sex and Fear: Big drivers for people in terms of responding to marketing but they have no place in your cases.  If they do, for heaven’s sake tell us more.

Do feel free to get in touch about, my unique web-based system designed to streamline the directories’ submission process which is currently being used by 830+ lawyers.  And the Legal 500 UK Bar deadline for London is 16th April 2021.

Legal directories: choosing the right referees

Referees are key to submissions to both legal directories but there are significant differences between the two.  Having filed submissions for both magic circle law firms and top barristers’ chambers for years here is my advice:

More is more.  Legal 500 ask for 20+ referees. It is effectively unlimited.  You can provide fewer but it is really better to try to provide as many as possible.  It also helps to remind you to maintain your relationships all year round, not just reaching out to your contacts two days before the submission deadline.  Chambers only ask for five.

Ask your referees’ permission to put them forward. It sounds obvious but it is often overlooked. It is only polite, for heavens’ sake.  If they engage on your behalf they are doing you a huge favour.  And you can offer to reciprocate.  

Make sure they know who you are.  Oh dear.  Yes, it has happened.  A researcher asked a referee about a particular lawyer and the answer was “who?”.   At the opposite extreme, don’t include your mother!  Referees do not have to be linked to a particular case.  It is an advantage if they have known you for years as they will be able to wax lyrical about your skills as an individual.

Availability.  Availability is a key factor.  Don’t ask the busiest person at the bar to be a referee unless you know that they will prioritise you above everything else that comes into their inbox.  Ditto the Managing Partner at a magic circle law firm.  There is no point in nominating referees who are too busy to be available to the researcher, choose someone less senior in the same team who will engage.

Warm up your referees: It is worth reminding your referees just before the research starts that they have agreed to do this for you.  It’s a pain to check the research schedules but Legal 500 does actually send out emails to remind you.  Legal 500’s Bar Editor Will Tolcher sent one last week about the UK Regional Bar research deadlines.

This is an annual process.  Look after your key relationships all year round and you will not find this onerous or difficult. 

Need some help with directories? Feel free to drop me an email to learn more about, my unique web-based system designed to streamline the directories’ submission process which is currently being used by 750+ lawyers.  

Legal 500 looming: Top tips for this year’s submissions

Now that the Chambers submissions are done, on to Legal 500.  Having filed submissions for both magic circle law firms and barristers’ chambers here is my advice on the process for Legal 500:

Even if you were unsuccessful last year, try again.  It is all part of building a profile, and a relationship, with the editorial team.  They need time to get to know you and your practice. It can take two to three years to gain a ranking or longer in the most popular practice areas where competition for rankings is fiercest.

Hit the deadline. It sounds obvious but many don’t.  It is difficult enough for the researchers to wade through the hundreds of submissions for their practice areas without looking out for stragglers.  You are likely to get special attention but not of the right kind.

Play the game.  If they ask for five cases, give them five not 15.  The researchers have limited time to spend on each section.  They do not have all the time in the world. If you submit more than they ask for they are likely to read the first five cases: if you have saved your best until last you will miss out completely.  It is also a useful discipline to take the time to choose your best cases.

Tailor your submission to the relevant directory.  Legal 500 asks for more detail in their submissions and relies more on the written submission than Chambers does.  For example, Legal 500 has a section on case significance which is a useful reminder to you and the researcher as to why you chose the case: what makes it special? Why is it interesting? Why is it an outstanding case for you? If you are stumped for an answer you may wish to reconsider your choice.

Choosing your referees: Legal 500 ask for 15+ referees and you can provide more.  This is because their response rates from referees are low at around the 20% mark.  Choose people who will rave about you and who will make the effort to engage on your behalf.  It is worth offering to do the same for them.  Both solicitors and barristers are involved in this process and people are often grateful for the offer. 

This is an annual process, like the sun, it comes round every year.  Don’t leave it until the last minute, you put pressure on yourself and the marketing team if you do. Record your cases throughout the year for next year’s round to avoid a last minute rush.  Legal 500 deadlines are in mid-April so you have no time to lose.

One final point, feel free to get in touch about Handyside.Legal, my unique web-based system designed to streamline the directories’ submission process which is currently being used by 750+ lawyers.  

Good luck!